Hitting Rock Bottom

In the middle of last week Melbourne had its biggest earthquake on record. It was the first time in my life I’ve experienced an earthquake. It only lasted about fifteen seconds at my house but that was certainly enough to get my attention. Up until corona, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the symbolism of such an event but nowadays I am not so sure. The literal earthquake came just two days after a metaphorical earthquake which made headlines around the world in the form of a mass protest by construction workers in the Melbourne CBD followed by days of police violence the likes of which we haven’t seen since this country was a prison colony. In a post back in May I predicted that Australia was going to have a severe political and cultural meltdown before corona was over. Boy was I right. It was fitting that the meltdown happened in Melbourne; the epicentre of our corona earthquake. On the day of the real earthquake, Melbourne equalled Buenos Aires as the most locked down city in the world a record we now hold by a comfortable margin. Melbourne used to call itself the world’s most liveable city. Turns out we are also the world’s most lockdownable city. Who knew? With the events of last week, I think Australia has finally hit rock bottom in our corona story. We are heading into summer now, vaccinations rates are up and governments are finally talking of getting back to normal. Nothing is certain in these times, but it would take something special for things not to be back to some kind of normality by Christmas. The long-term effects of corona will then become apparent and it is here that I think the earthquake may be symbolic. Things have happened here in the last year and a half that will not be forgotten and are going to need to find some kind of resolution. What that looks like is too early to tell but a political earthquake is certainly one of the options.

What was key to the Melbourne protests last week was that they were carried out by union members against a Labor state government. To know how significant that is you have to know that the Labor Party in Australia was built on union power which is still very strong in Australia. Like its counterparts in Britain and the US, Australian Labor abandoned its traditional economic platform in the 90s to get on board the neoliberalism train. However, that shift was carried out far more successfully in Australia than other countries and in the last few decades the working class here have not economically suffered anywhere near as much as in Britain and the US which is part of the reason why Australian politics has been a snooze-fest while Brexit and Trump happened. Although the Australian Labor Party is now also the party of the inner-city intelligentsia, it has still kept its working-class base. Until now. The first signs of the loss of that base came during the last federal election where the Liberal-National Party picked up an increasing share of the working class vote and won a surprise victory. I think that trend is now set to go into overdrive. With corona, the unions around the country have failed to stand up for their members in the face of vaccines mandates. Starting last week, the construction union became the latest one to sell out its members. The Victorian construction union is the most old-school in the country and is notorious for both its violence and its willingness to flout the law to achieve its aims. The membership was quite willing to turn those capabilities on its leader and let him know what they thought of his agreeing to mandatory vaccinations for construction workers. In fact, the CFMEU is probably the only institution in the country that could have carried out a protest such as the one that happened last week. The fact that a Labor politician was unable to know that is quite telling. It was an incredible political miscalculation. The important point in the medium term is that the union movement is going to face a political crisis and that crisis should directly impact the Labor Party. The 20-30% of the union workforce who did not want to take the vaccine but who have been forced into doing so are not going to forgive either the unions or the Labor Party. That should have a direct impact at elections in the years ahead.

In normal course of events, that should help the other side of the political spectrum except the Liberal Party has also betrayed its supposed values and its base during corona. The liberal Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, gave an absurd address to the United Nations general assembly last week in which he decided to highlight the fact that Australia was one of the few countries involved in the drafting of the universal charter of human rights. Not only that, Morrison stated that Australia puts its belief in human rights into practice right here at home. Really, Mr Morrison? Article 13 states that everyone has right to freedom of movement within their own country and also the right to leave and return to that country. Australia has been blatantly in breach of this article for most of the last eighteen months. Why would the Prime Minister make this a point of his speech at this time? You could argue it was just a slip up. But this dissociation from reality has been a feature of the Morrison prime ministership. He was famously on the beach in Hawaii during the massive Australian bushfires of 2019 and seemed genuinely not to understand why he needed to break his holiday and, y’know, lead the country during a time of emergency. During covid he has been little more than a cipher often just missing completely from the public view. He appeared unable to foresee the political consequences of not securing enough vaccines and he has been unable to bring State leaders together to agree on, well, anything. That he should get up and blab on about freedom and human rights while there were “anti-terrorism” police firing rubber bullets on unarmed civilians on the streets of Melbourne is stunningly naïve at best. This is the same Prime Minister who changed the words of the national anthem to “we are one and free” at a time when states borders were closed. You get the impression Morrison just hopes that if he ignores such problems long enough they might go away.

Will they go away? There is actually a possibility they will. The NSW state premier yesterday released a road map that she said was definitely not about “freedom day” but that included the dropping of all restrictions even against the unvaccinated on 1 December, which kind of makes 1 December just like freedom day except it’s definitely not a freedom day. This came just a week after stories started circulating about how the state’s vaccine passport app was not going to be ready in time for the easing of restrictions. Given that the passports are apparently only going to be in place for a month and a half, I’d say that means the government won’t even bother to roll the app out. This was certainly an about face on the rhetoric of the last few months and a clever bit of politics. If the Premier can pull it off, the other states will almost certainly have to follow suit and drop all restrictions too. That would mean life goes back to some kind of normal just in time for the start of summer. If things go well in the northern hemisphere winter, it may just be that the Australian government can bring The Plague Story to an apparent end . The vaccines were provided just in time for the summer off-season. Any corona surge won’t happen until the following winter by which time I’d say everybody will be over the whole thing. If that happens, it may be that things barely change and life goes on as normal. It’s far too early to say whether this will happen but it is now an actual possibility.

Another possibility is that Australian politics is about to receive a big shakeup. Both major parties have betrayed their base and their ostensible ideals in the last year and a half. Indeed, it is plain that there really is no discernible difference at all between the two parties; a fact which was also clear in the recent Canadian elections. Like Canada, Australia may just vote on party lines again. However, there is now a sizeable demographic ready to vote for an alternative. The only question is whether there is a politician with the smarts to win them over. In any case, I’d expect to see the minor parties do very well in the next federal and Victorian elections. There are a lot of unknowns moving forward. How bad is the damage to the real economy in particular the tourism and higher education sectors? What will be the mindset of people who think the vaccine will stop them getting infected when they do inevitably test positive? What happens if things get really bad next flu season? What if things get really bad in the upcoming northern hemisphere flu season? If the Melbourne earthquake is an omen for any of these things, we may see something seismic in the year ahead.

Corona (archetypal) update

I wanted to throw in a quick post about Biden’s speech this week which represents a new phase in the evolution of the corona event. It came at the same time as this deeply weird article in the Australian media. In the article, the scientist who designed the Astra Zeneca vaccine admitted what has been obvious from the start which is that the vaccines do not stop you getting the virus. Thus, both the vaccinated and the unvaccinated can expect to be infected. She stated that the goal of eliminating the virus is over. This should have been good news because if somebody with a high profile is finally telling the truth, then maybe we can start to deal with this issue properly. Did the article point that out? Did it say that the only way forward is to assume that everybody will catch the virus and devise a strategy based on that fact? Of course not. It promptly went on to tell the reader that the unvaccinated needed to be “shunned”. This is both a non sequitur and a logical contradiction of what the expert had just said. If everybody will test positive anyway, your vaccination status is completely irrelevant. This new rhetoric against the unvaccinated marks a dark turn in the corona event and Biden’s speech, which announced new measures against the unvaccinated, was indicative of the new phase we are entering.

Readers of the posts in my Coronapocalypse series may have recognised the language Biden used. There were a couple of key quotes that mark the change in rhetoric that has occurred in the last month or so starting with the Israeli Prime Minister (Israel is the canary in the corona coal mine) and then eagerly picked up by Trudeau in Canada as well as the state premiers here in Australia. It was always going to be a very small change to take the language used about the virus and start to apply it to the unvaccinated. That is what we are now seeing. Let’s look at the key phrase from Biden’s speech:

“We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers.”

The vaccines, of course, are supposed to protect people from the virus and our leaders assure us that they do in fact protect people. Biden himself was at pains to point out how well the vaccines worked. According to this logic, the vaccinated are already protected against the virus. So, why would the vaccinated need further “protection” from the unvaccinated? This makes no logical sense just as the article in the Australian media made no logical sense. Of course, as we know by now, we are not dealing with logic here but with the archetypal takeover of the rational mind; specifically, The Devouring Mother. Biden’s phrase is the exact catchcry of The Devouring Mother who hides her intentions behind the pretence of protecting her children. Until now, the children have needed protection from a virus. Now they apparently need protection from the other children. Again, this makes sense within the archetype. The vaccinated are the acquiescent children and the unvaccinated are the rebellious children. So, the whole thing maps on to the archetype perfectly. The Devouring Mother is rewarding the acquiescent children and punishing the rebellious. What we are seeing with this new change of rhetoric and the new measures against the unvaccinated is the full and unvarnished manifestation of the archetype unencumbered by any last vestiges of science, logic or reason. I can’t make any sense of Biden or Trudeau or others except in archetypal terms. These people are supposed to be the leaders of their countries and leaders do not divide the public. What is going on now is punishment, pure and simple. Another quote from Biden’s speech makes this clear:

“We have been patient but our patience is wearing thin”.

Is this how a president, a public servant, a leader talks to the public? No. But it is how a parent talks. It is how The Devouring Mother talks. The rebellious children need to be punished. That is the explanation for these measures which not only don’t make scientific sense, they don’t even make political sense. Let’s take the current situation in Australia. Apparently each state government is going to individually implement its own vaccine passport. They will do this even though the federal government controls the data on vaccination status and has said it will not make that data available to the states as this would be a violation of the law. The solution? Each state will need to create its own system to track vaccination status. They will make people download an app and then upload their vaccination paperwork to the app. All this will need to tie in with the QR code system. Bear in mind that Australian government IT is famously incompetent and the states have about a month or two to get these systems up and running so the promised freedoms can be delivered to the vaccinated. Even if they miraculously get the systems to work, the whole thing is a disaster in the making. Twenty percent of the population will not be vaccinated and I’d estimate at least another 10% will not use these apps either because they can’t (elderly people who aren’t tech savvy) or out of moral principles. How many restaurants, cafes, pubs etc are going to be financially viable with a 30% reduction in revenue? Not many. Then consider that you’d need multiple apps to use if you travel interstate. The whole thing is a logistical and political debacle waiting to happen and a total waste of money. Our Devouring Mother-in-chief here in Victoria, Dan Andrews, called this a “vaccine economy”. If ever there was economy designed to fail, it is that. What that should mean by extension is political failure. I’ll be watching the upcoming Canadian election with great interest as this is the first time a western public will be able to vote on such measures. We have an Australian federal election due next year just in time for the failure of the vaccine program and the vaccine passport program to become a reality. That’s going to open up all kinds of possibilities.

I noted in a previous post that things were about to get weirder and now they have. We are now, I think, in the peak of the archetypal takeover. The Devouring Mother is out to discipline her rebellious children. Will it be a slap on the wrist or something far darker. We’re about to find out.

The Coronapocalypse Part 37: Finale

I published my first post on corona way back on 25th July 2020. At that time, I had topics for about the first four posts and, although I never expected to write thirty-seven posts, I figured I should come up with a catchy name. Just for fun, I’d been mucking around with inventing some corona neologisms and had created a pretty long list. It turns out corona works very nicely as a prefix. Some examples: coronamusement, coronatentment, coronaphoria, coronannoyance, coronasentment, coronaversion, coronavulsion, coronaffender, coronaformer, coronapentance, coronappointment, coronanimity and, of course, coronapocalypse. A year and a bit later, I now consider my choice of title to be another synchronicity because what we are witnessing now is, if I’m correct, the end of not just one but several historical cycles including perhaps the biblical meaning of apocalypse as the end of the Christian era. In order of time and importance, these cycles are: the neoliberal period of the last thirty years, the US/British empire and the global dominance of European civilisation of the last couple of hundred years, the era of materialist science which drove that empire and, taking the theme from Jung’s Aion, the end of the period of the Antichrist which was itself the second half of the Christian era captured astrologically in the Age of Pisces giving way to the Age of Aquarius. Here’s a graphical representation.

In my first book on corona – The Plague Story – I was primarily concerned with the materialist science part of the story. My main guides were the works of Gregory Bateson, James C. Scott, Gerald Weinberg and others who had written some of the major critiques of materialist science in the 20th century especially in relation to its manifestation in bureaucratic-authoritarian governance structures. I argued that corona was exactly the error caused by what Scott called High Modernist Ideology which, in a nutshell, is the notion that science was the solution to all our problems and all we have to do is put experts in charge of everything and a shiny, high-tech utopia will inevitably follow. This ideology was very popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was common to many political theories including Marxism. It was in the name of Marxism that the idea was pushed to its ultimate conclusion in both the USSR and Maoist China. The result was the deaths of tens of millions of people mostly from starvation. That should have been enough real world evidence about the matter but the 20th century also saw the ideology implode from within science itself most notably quantum mechanics. That’s why Shroedinger, Niels Bohr and others ended writing a lot on philosophy because they had seen materialism’s failure in practical, scientific terms. Corona represents the first time the high modernist ideology has been applied on a mass scale in the West. Scott’s work showed in grim detail where the interaction of that ideology enforced through rigid bureaucracy leads and we are now experiencing it directly in our daily lives. That explanation made sense to me but I had the intuition I was missing something. I had tried to find it in the chapters of The Plague Story which dealt with the denial of death, the declining economic conditions implied by corona and a few other bits and pieces. After finishing the The Plague Story, I continued to write the other posts in this series until finally I arrived at Jung and the pieces fell into place which led to the notion of The Devouring Mother as the archetype that had taken over during corona. I realised that what was missing from the High Modernist Ideology expalanation was the psychological background which Jung had already described in detail and with great clarity.

The psychological requirement for an individual or society to fall into the high modernist trap is the dissociation of the conscious mind from the unconscious. This happens in a number of ways. The breaking from tradition, often involving the break up of the family structure. The rejection of religion as the primary mode of symbolising the contents of the unconscious and bridging the gap to the conscious mind. The debasement of art as another bridge to the unconscious. The replacement of all these with state-sponsored education which, in the high modernist period, means a “scientific” education (although very little real science is conveyed in our modern education system). The encouragement of rational thinking without the counterbalancing input from the unconscious leads to psychic dissociation. When combined with the bureaucratic structure where the decision maker’s decisions are based entirely on abstractions with no connection to the real world, the results are disastrous. We don’t normally notice the problem because such dynamics are normally only mild inconveniences such as when you need to get your driver’s licence renewed or get some piece of paperwork from the government. When applied to important matters like the growing of food or the management of a pandemic, the results are exactly what we saw during the 20th century and are seeing now. Within the Jungian perspective, it is no coincidence that both the USSR and Maoist China waged war on religion, that they censored art, that they featured the uprooting of populations and the attack on traditional values to be replaced with state-mandated education. It was those measures which created the psychological conditions that enabled the high modernist ideology to flourish. A very similar thing happened in the years prior to Nazi Germany: the defeat of WW1, the humiliation at Versailles and then the chaotic years of the Weimar Republic. All these had the impact of destroying traditional values and upending the natural relationships in society leaving Germany ripe for archetypal takeover. The High Modernist Ideology is the symptom. The underlying problem is psychological. Destroy art, religion and tradition and replace it with scientific materialism and you leave yourself open to psychic epidemics.

Thus, it is no coincidence that our archetypal takeover by The Devouring Mother during corona was preceded by thirty years of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism, along with the information revolution (the internet, social media etc) have psychologically done to us what was done in Weimar Germany, Stalinist Russia and Maoist China. To my mind, the most eloquent critic of the neoliberal agenda was Sir James Goldsmith. The interested reader can check out this video filmed in 1992. Fittingly, it was Goldsmith’s Schumacher Lecture named after another of the 20th century’s great critics of materialism, E.F. Schumacher. Among other things, Goldsmith warns in the video about the dangers of mucking around with the genetic engineering of viruses. It doesn’t get much more prescient than that given what we now know about the lab in Wuhan. But it’s Goldsmith’s warnings about the social and psychological effects of neoliberalism that I think are even more important in the corona story because they mirror the warnings that Jung had already made. With neoliberalism, we kicked those psychological processes into overdrive: the deification of (materialist) science as a secular religion transmitted through the education system, de-socialisation caused by the uprootedness of the population, broken families representing a break from tradition (note: this is why The Orphan archetype has been dominant during corona), the increasing dissociation of people from “nature” as they leave the land and take to the cities. Every one of Goldsmith’s warnings now rings true. They have come true right before our very eyes and we can trace them directly back to their cause: neoliberalism. The only thing that Goldsmith missed, and he couldn’t have known in 1992, was the advent of the internet. The information revolution has heightened all the processes that were already at play. We are drowning in information these days but we have completely lost the ability to make sense of it. The internet presents us with a sea of abstract information without the corresponding wisdom to understand it. Thus, the voices of the real experts have been there from the start of corona but they were drowned out by the noise. Governments have stepped in to try and fill the void, to be the wise voice of reason (actually, more the stern voice of authoritarianism) but that has just given rise to the high modernist intervention. That’s all modern governments working through their bureaucracy are capable of.

The neoliberal movement is, of course, run by the same kinds of people who have always thought government and the “experts” should run things. The comparisons to communism are valid in that respect. The pattern is the same. Traditional society, what Goldsmith calls the “real nation”, is to be corrected, put in order and, if necessary, overturned so that society can be restructured according to rational principles and materialist science. But this is just another way to frame the psychic disconnect that Jung had identified. It’s the separation of the conscious mind from the unconscious. The rational mind wants to take over but it gets lost in a field of abstractions that bear no relation to reality. Goldsmith identified GDP as one abstraction. Nobody cares about GDP anymore. What we care about are corona “cases”. It’s the same error at work. Meaningless abstractions manipulated by bureaucrats with no tacit understanding of what is going on. It’s part of every real scientist’s training to know very precisely what is and is not being measured by abstractions such as “cases”, but government bureaucrats are not required to know. That’s the high modernist ideology at work. But the ideology is just the symptom. The underlying issue is psychological and it was this which Jung had already identified. Let’s take a few choice quotes from him:-

“Naturally the present tendency to destroy all tradition or render it unconscious could interrupt the normal process of development for several hundred years and substitute an interlude of barbarism.”

“Hence the ever-widening split between conscious and unconscious increases the danger of psychic infection and mass psychosis. With the loss of symbolic ideas the bridge to the unconscious has broken down. Instinct no longer affords protection against unsound ideas and empty slogans. Rationality without tradition and without a basis in instinct is proof against no absurdity.”

“But a predominantly scientific and technological education, such as is the usual thing nowadays, can also bring about a spiritual regression and a considerable increase of psychic dissociation. With hygiene and prosperity alone a man is still far from health, otherwise the most enlightened and most comfortably off among us would be the healthiest. But in regard to neuroses that is not the case at all, quite the contrary. Loss of roots and tradition neuroticise the masses and prepare them for collective hysteria. Collective hysteria calls for collective therapy, which consists in abolition of liberty and terrorisation. Where rationalistic materialism holds sway, states tend to develop less into prisons than into lunatic asylums.”

That is, of course, where we are now in western societies: a lunatic asylum.

Get rid of religion, get rid of sacred symbolism, get rid of stories, get rid of history, break up family ties and community and replace it all with “rationalist education” and the results seem to be the same every time. You get the decoupling of rationality from the unconscious. In the modern world with materialist science, you get the high modernist ideology. It’s because the underlying psychology is the same that the high modernist ideology can occur in cultures as diverse as Russia, China and the West. The psychological structure of man is the same everywhere in the world. Corona is the first time a high modernist intervention has been tried in the West but its arrival signifies the deeper psychological problems wrought be neoliberalism and the information revolution.

That is the psychological and ideological-political background to corona but the corona story, The Plague Story, is falling apart as we speak. The vaccines are not going to “work”. All the elements that make up modern western culture are involved in that failure: neoliberalism, the British-US empire, bureaucracy, the healthcare system, materialist science. What’s more, the failure is going to involve every single citizen in western nations. We have all been pulled in to this business, some willingly and some unwillingly. That failure would have been significant enough by itself, but it comes at a time of the rapid deterioration of the US empire and the global dominance of western European culture that has been in place for a couple of centuries. The neoliberal program was the last hurrah of that empire. It created the conditions for the rise of China and the forming of the Eurasian block as the counterbalance to western power. It is also created the conditions for Trump and Brexit causing a split within our socities. It is yet another synchronicity that the virus came from China during the presidency of Trump and that it was funded by neoliberal money. Some have suspected foul play; that the virus was a conspiracy either by China or by the neoliberal enemies of Trump. Those explanations posit the “cause” in the ego (conscious mind). With The Devouring Mother, I have tried to explain it by recourse to the unconscious mind and in the larger forces that are at play beyond the realm of human consciousness. In any case, neoliberalism had already hollowed out western societies from the inside and led to the rise of Trump and Brexit. At some point in the near future, I expect something will happen that will make clear exactly where the balance of power lies. We will see plainly that the US is no longer the sole superpower and perhaps no longer even the main power in the world. The Eurasian block will assert its strength. That is going to be a great shock to westerners and another blow right at the time when we are already psychologically, economically and politically frail. The fallout is going to hit hardest in the US and the countries in the inner circle of the US empire. I expect the fallout may actually hit hardest in Canada, Australia and New Zealand for several reasons. Firstly, unlike the US, we have benefitted, at least nominally, from the neoliberal agenda. As a result, politics in our countries have been stable, boring  and monotonous for the last few decades. What that means in practice is that we have no alternative narrative on offer. If our leaders have any clue what is coming they are doing a very good job of hiding it. There is certainly no talk that I have heard about a Plan B. More importantly, our societies were founded by the British empire and our culture is based on materialist bourgeois society. Corona strikes at the heart of our very identity. I am sure this is the reason why the corona response has been so much more hysterical in our countries than elsewhere. What is at stake here is fundamental in a way that is not true even in the United States.

As corona has been conducted in the name of “science”, it’s failure is going to be a huge blow to the prestige of science. I think the blowback will be big enough to put an end to the age of materialist science (aka the Antichrist). It was this which I addressed in detail in post 11 of this series, giving it the name that Kenneth Clark gave: heroic materialism. Heroic materialism was the application of materialist science to bourgeois society creating the material abundance that we all enjoy. Applied to the natural world, it works wonders for building bridges and flying rockets to the moon. It doesn’t work in the biological world. That was the lesson learned the hard way in the USSR and Maoist China and it is the lesson we are learning the hard way right now. As I have alluded to above, we should already have known this from the lessons from quantum mechanics, cybernetics and systems thinking. But those lessons did not filter through to the broader culture. The broader culture is still running on the heroic materialist idea that science can solve every problem. Corona is going to destroy that illusion. The best case scenario now is that the vaccines will be ineffective. The worst case scenario is that they will be actively harmful. Either way, I don’t see a pathway through this where the whole thing is not an abject failure. That failure has already affected every citizen in western societies. Thus, the magnitude of the matter is enormous and the political and cultural fallout will be equivalent. It may take months or it may take years, but I expect that to happen. In the process, the reputation of institutionalised science will have been dragged through the mud and heroic materialism with it. With any luck, we can use this failure to re-establish the limits of the materialist paradigm so that “science” in general does not disappear entirely.

Finally, we come to the last and longest cycle outlined by Jung in his book Aion. The Age of Pisces is coming to an end and the Age of Aquarius about to begin. These have astrological significance which most people nowadays would not take seriously. What is more crucial is the meaning which Jung gave to this. To summarise an entire book in a few sentences, he believed the Age of Pisces was the age of Christ who was a symbol of the archetype of the Self. The Self represents the psyche consisting of the ego (consciousness), the shadow, the anima/animus and the unconscious. Religion and art are, among other things, a way to connect the conscious mind with the unconscious through symbols and the Christ symbol was the way in which knowledge of the Self was made manifest and brought into a form that consciousness could incorporate. No coincidence then that the fall of religion in the west has been tied to the rise of hubris and egotism. Our unconstrained ego is no longer counterbalanced by the unconscious. This leads to psychic epidemics and corona is the latest of those. The rise of materialist science occurred in the period of the Antichrist which had already been predicted at the beginning of the Christian Era. What was also predicted was the apocalypse, which was the end of the whole cycle. Jung believed we were coming to the end of that cycle right now. The period of Christ was the time when we were invited to understand the Self but the understanding of the self is not a pleasant experience. In Jungian terms, Christ on the cross is a symbol of the pain of individuation i.e. incorporating our shadow and facing our soul. That seems to me to be exactly what is happening right now in the West. The failure of corona is going to be enormously painful mostly because we will realise that it is we who have done this to ourselves. It is happening most acutely here in Australia. We have turned our country into a kind of hell. It is a very bourgeois hell. The pantry is still full of food (for most people) and we can all sit on the couch and share our opinions on facebook (as long as we have the right opinions). This is fitting. Australia was founded on the bourgeois ideal just like New Zealand and Canada. It’s that ideal, backed by the empire which secured it and running on materialist science which created it, which is going away. The end of the Aion of Christ/Pisces is the invitation to face the Self and that is precisely what seems to be coming our way. We think we are fighting a virus but we are really fighting ourselves. The “invisible enemy” is the unconscious mind that the ego has become untethered from. The process of individuation is the re-establishment of our connection to the unconscious and the facing of the Self. That is what is portended by the Age of Aquarius. The Age of Pisces was the formulation of the Self through the figure of Christ. Now we must put that formulation into action. That is how I understand Jung’s meaning in Aion.

Corona represents the last hurrah of the period of the Antichrist/Materialist Science. We are stuck in a hall of mirrors grasping at “scientific” abstractions that no longer work. Our leaders and the “experts” have been wrong at every turn for the last one and a half years. Not just a little bit wrong, but exactly the opposite of correct. That, in itself, is weird. Politicians are experts in not making statements to which they can later be held accountable. That is almost half the job of a politician. Yet our politicians, especially here in Australia, have made statement after statement that instantly and continually turned out to be wrong. If the Prime Minister of Australia came out this morning and said the sky was blue, I would fully expect it to turn green by sundown. That is a fitting end to the age of the Antichrist; the inversion of everything. Democratic societies turned authoritarian, truth turned to lies, authority turned to absurdity. It is this we are going to have to face in the years ahead. How we get there is the only question. We may blame the unvaccinated, we may then blame the “science”, we may finally blame the politicians, but ultimately we will have to face ourselves. That would be a fitting way to start the new Aion. A mass, collective individuation process at the societal level. Of course, the alternative is the one that Jung warned of: an extended period of barbarism of exactly the kind we are seeing now in Western nations. Perhaps that is what is needed to trigger the individuation process.

That is the conclusion I have reached through more than a year of blog posts on this subject and seems a fitting way to end this series. I can see now that The Plague Story was an ego-based, conscious explanation for what had happened during corona while The Devouring Mother is an explanation from the unconscious. This conclusion, therefore, presages a third book which would be a combination of the two perhaps against the backdrop on Jung’s Aion. The thesis would be that corona is the turning point to the new Aion. I’m not sure I’m ready to tackle that project yet and in any case I might be wrong. I suspect the answer will come very shortly. I think the next six months are going to be decisive. Lenin once said that there are decades where nothing happens and weeks where decades happen. I wonder if the same applies to centuries and even to millennia? We may be about to find out.

All posts in this series:-

The Coronapocalypse Part 0: Why you shouldn’t listen to a word I say (maybe)

The Coronapocalypse Part 1: The Madness of Crowds in the Age of the Internet

The Coronapocalypse Part 2: An Epidemic of Testing

The Coronapocalypse Part 3: The Panic Principle

The Coronapocalypse Part 4: The Denial of Death

The Coronapocalypse Part 5: Cargo Cult Science

The Coronapocalypse Part 6: The Economics of Pandemic

The Coronapocalypse Part 7: There’s Nothing Novel under the Sun

The Coronapocalypse Part 8: Germ Theory and Its Discontents

The Coronapocalypse Part 9: Heroism in the Time of Corona

The Coronapocalypse Part 10: The Story of Pandemic

The Coronapocalypse Part 11: Beyond Heroic Materialism

The Coronapocalypse Part 12: The End of the Story (or is it?)

The Coronapocalypse Part 13: The Book

The Coronapocalypse Part 14: Automation Ideology

The Coronapocalypse Part 15: The True Believers

The Coronapocalypse Part 16: Dude, where’s my economy?

The Coronapocalypse Part 17: Dropping the c-word (conspiracy)

The Coronapocalypse Part 18: Effects and Side Effects

The Coronapocalypse Part 19: Government and Mass Hysteria

The Coronapocalypse Part 20: The Neverending Story

The Coronapocalypse Part 21: Kafkaesque Much?

The Coronapocalypse Part 22: The Trauma of Bullshit Jobs

The Coronapocalypse Part 23: Acts of Nature

The Coronapocalypse Part 24: The Dangers of Prediction

The Coronapocalypse Part 25: It’s just semantics, mate

The Coronapocalypse Part 26: The Devouring Mother

The Coronapocalypse Part 27: Munchausen by Proxy

The Coronapocalypse Part 28: The Archetypal Mask

The Coronapocalypse Part 29: A Philosophical Interlude

The Coronapocalypse Part 30: The Rebellious Children

The Coronapocalypse Part 31: How Dare You!

The Coronapocalypse Part 32: Book Announcement

The Coronapocalypse Part 33: Everything free except freedom

The Coronapocalypse Part 34: Into the Twilight Zone

The Coronapocalypse Part 35: The Land of the Unfree and the Home of the Safe

The Coronapocalypse Part 36: The Devouring Mother Book Now Available

The Coronapocalypse Part 37: Finale

The Coronapocalypse Part 36: The Devouring Mother Book Now Available

Well, the editing process on this took a lot longer than I was expecting but I wanted to take the time to get it right. The book comes in lean and mean at about 120 pages. There were numerous ways to expand it but each time I felt I was either straying too far from the main theme and/or repeating myself. Those who’ve read any Nassim Taleb book know what it’s like to read a book that could have been fifty pages but took up two hundred and fifty. I was keen to avoid that outcome. Anyway, I’m happy that it’s finally through the sausage grinder and out in the real world. For anybody interested in grabbing a copy, it should be available in your favourite online bookstore. Here’s a few suggestions: Booktopia (AUS), Book Depository (UK), Barnes and Noble (US), Kobo, Amazon and more.

All posts in this series:-

The Coronapocalypse Part 0: Why you shouldn’t listen to a word I say (maybe)

The Coronapocalypse Part 1: The Madness of Crowds in the Age of the Internet

The Coronapocalypse Part 2: An Epidemic of Testing

The Coronapocalypse Part 3: The Panic Principle

The Coronapocalypse Part 4: The Denial of Death

The Coronapocalypse Part 5: Cargo Cult Science

The Coronapocalypse Part 6: The Economics of Pandemic

The Coronapocalypse Part 7: There’s Nothing Novel under the Sun

The Coronapocalypse Part 8: Germ Theory and Its Discontents

The Coronapocalypse Part 9: Heroism in the Time of Corona

The Coronapocalypse Part 10: The Story of Pandemic

The Coronapocalypse Part 11: Beyond Heroic Materialism

The Coronapocalypse Part 12: The End of the Story (or is it?)

The Coronapocalypse Part 13: The Book

The Coronapocalypse Part 14: Automation Ideology

The Coronapocalypse Part 15: The True Believers

The Coronapocalypse Part 16: Dude, where’s my economy?

The Coronapocalypse Part 17: Dropping the c-word (conspiracy)

The Coronapocalypse Part 18: Effects and Side Effects

The Coronapocalypse Part 19: Government and Mass Hysteria

The Coronapocalypse Part 20: The Neverending Story

The Coronapocalypse Part 21: Kafkaesque Much?

The Coronapocalypse Part 22: The Trauma of Bullshit Jobs

The Coronapocalypse Part 23: Acts of Nature

The Coronapocalypse Part 24: The Dangers of Prediction

The Coronapocalypse Part 25: It’s just semantics, mate

The Coronapocalypse Part 26: The Devouring Mother

The Coronapocalypse Part 27: Munchausen by Proxy

The Coronapocalypse Part 28: The Archetypal Mask

The Coronapocalypse Part 29: A Philosophical Interlude

The Coronapocalypse Part 30: The Rebellious Children

The Coronapocalypse Part 31: How Dare You!

The Coronapocalypse Part 32: Book Announcement

The Coronapocalypse Part 33: Everything free except freedom

The Coronapocalypse Part 34: Into the Twilight Zone

The Coronapocalypse Part 35: The Land of the Unfree and the Home of the Safe

The Coronapocalypse Part 36: The Devouring Mother Book Now Available

The Coronapocalypse Part 37: Finale

The Coronapocalypse Part 35: The Land of the Unfree and the Home of the Safe

I’ve started three times now to write a post on what has happened in Australia during corona and each time I’ve run up against a set of difficulties which made me stop. There has been no shortage of material to write about, of course. I could easily blurt out pages and pages outlining all the craziness: the army checkpoints, soldiers on the streets of our major cities, the police brutality, the endless cycle of lockdowns, the heartlessness and stupidity of the public health bureaucrats, the innumerable blunders from the government, the lack of accountability, the absurd fear-mongering from politicians and media and, perhaps most strikingly of all, the complete inability to raise a single dissenting voice that mattered to talk about it all. All of these things have gotten worse, not better, since corona began. Back in March 2020, the Prime Minister told Australians the truth: everybody would get the virus but only the elderly and immuno-compromised were at risk. That’s still true a year and a half later but that’s not what we hear from politicians now. Australia has deviated far from reality and it’s not at all clear how we’re going to find our way back. The only critical voices we’ve managed to muster have focused on the politics. For example, long-time media personality, Alan Jones, has been banging on about the incompetence of our politicians for some time now. But that’s the easy road to take. It’s pleasant to think that the only thing we needed was better politicians to guide us out of the mess. But the politicians, especially in democracies, can only do what the public wants and the actions of the politicians in Australia have had majority support. That reveals something about Australian culture and society. Or does it? How do we separate the Australian response from every other country? What do we attribute to fate and what to “character”?

The analytical problems to answer this question are several. Firstly, there is the fact that many countries around the world have imposed draconian measures during corona. Australia is not alone there. Is the difference just a matter of degree or does it point to something deeper? Australia has undoubtedly gone further than other countries in many respects. Australia is unique, as far as I know, in not allowing citizens to leave without permission of government. This was recently extended to include citizens who have returned to Australia temporarily but who reside overseas. That seems to be an extreme measure but is it meaningfully different from restrictions imposed elsewhere? Unlike other countries, Australia is defending a “covid zero” position and it is this fact which constitutes the second analytical problem in comparing Australia to other countries. Once the borders were closed, “cases” here dropped like a rock. Unlike any other country in the world except New Zealand, Australia was presented with the opportunity of “eliminating the virus”. Naturally, we took it. We then proceeded to tell ourselves that it wasn’t blind luck but good management. More than that, we told ourselves it was because Australians cared about each other more than other countries, especially the US where everything is just “about money”. If there’s one pattern that’s repeatedly popped up in Australia throughout corona it’s – pride goeth before a fall. No sooner had we finished patting ourselves on the back than the cracks started to show in the strategy courtesy of a never-ending procession of lockdowns. Melbourne was the first domino to fall in the winter of 2020. At time of writing, Melbourne is in lockdown number 6 while Sydney is in a lockdown that looks set to last longer than our epic three and-a-half-month effort last year. This all happened because, although borders were “closed”, Australia still had to allow its citizens to return home and we still had to let Hollywood movie stars and other notables into the country because, in the words of the Queensland Chief Health Officer, they brought millions of dollars with them (yes, she actually said that with a straight face at a press conference).  A quarantine program was set up but inevitably “cases” leaked out and outbreaks occurred. We didn’t admit the obvious fact that this was a problem with the strategy of having quarantine facilities in heavily populated areas. Even purpose-built laboratories full of trained staff often fail to stop viruses getting out. Just ask the people in Wuhan. In Australia, we turned hotels in the major cities into quarantine facilities and populated them with barely trained staff. The rest is history. It’s not like Australia has a shortage of land far away from population centres. It’s not like we couldn’t afford to build new facilities. The cost of our lockdowns counts in the trillions of dollars. It would have been cheaper to build a quarantine version of Dubai out in the desert than do what we’ve done. How long do viruses stay viable with the harsh Australian sun beating down on parched earth? Not long I would have thought. We’ll never know because the Australian government couldn’t organise it.

So, the lockdowns began. The first major one was here in Melbourne and, rather than admit a fault in the strategy and find a better way to do it, we found a way to pin the blame on the incompetent state government (yes, reducing every matter to party politics doesn’t just happen in the US). No doubt the government was incompetent, most governments are. But we pretended that the state government in New South Wales knew what they were doing. They were the “gold standard” and, as long as everybody else copied them, the strategy would work. That charade lasted all the way into mid-2021 when New South Wales let an outbreak occur which led to their current lockdown which has famously seen soldiers deployed on the streets of Sydney (hey, we had soldiers on the streets of Melbourne before it was cool). It was at this point that the hysteria levels were raised higher than they had been at any time throughout corona. Politicians in all states embarked on a shameful program of fear mongering. It had nothing to do with health and everything to do with the fact they had been caught with their pants down. Having been happy to take the credit when times were good, they ramped up the hysteria when things went wrong. In the meantime, the federal government had failed to secure the vaccines that were supposed to end the whole thing. As a result, by the time the current flu season is over, much of Australia will have spent essentially the whole winter in lockdown.

One of the earliest cultural critiques of Australia was a book called The Lucky Country by Donald Horne. To paraphrase the main message of the book: Australia is a lucky country run by second-rate people who share its luck. Corona couldn’t bear that out more clearly. Although I obviously disagree with the strategy taken by western countries in relation to corona, there’s no doubt that both the UK and the US were able to execute that strategy properly. Australia was not. We fell backwards into a zero-covid strategy and have proceeded to execute it with all the adroitness of a drunk wombat staggering through a nest of angry bull ants. Can we be held accountable for that? Does it reveal something about Australian society? Or is it unfair to blame politicians for an outcome they probably never believed possible and certainly would never have planned for? Would any other country have behaved differently if they had also stumbled into a situation where they got to “zero” and then had to defend that position?

A third analytical problem is one that is inherent in all analysis of Australian culture. It’s one noted by one of our earliest modern cultural critics, Robin Boyd: how to differentiate Australian culture from “international western culture”. Australia became a nation on 1 January 1901 but the split from Britain was hardly clean. Britain still represented Australia in foreign affairs until the end of WW1. Australia placed armed forces at the disposal of Britain in both world wars. Radio and television news announcers still spoke with British accents until well after the middle of the 20th century. Politically, the main turning point came when Britain refused to defend Singapore in WW2 and left Australia to fend for itself against the Japanese. We turned to the US for help at which point we swapped from being part of the British empire to being part of the US empire. Australia had been dominated by British culture prior to the wars and then became dominated by US culture after. Wherever “Australian culture” has been in the short history of this country, it has had to be found beneath these dominant cultures. In the British era, that culture was found in the bush. The Man from Snowy River or Ned Kelly still hold a place in the nation’s heart for that reason. It wasn’t really until the 1970s that a distinctly Australian urban culture started to show through in television, movies and music but it has always been dominated by US influence. Then came globalisation and multiculturalism to make things even more opaque.

I first encountered this problem in a practical sense when an Indian colleague flew to Melbourne for a project we were working on. On his first day we took him for lunch at a ramen noodle bar. Then, at the end of the week we went for lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Sometime in the middle of his second week, he came over and asked me for a recommendation for lunch – “where can I find Australian food?” he asked. That seemingly simple question proved very difficult to answer. What is Australian food exactly? I could have pointed him to Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, there was even a Mongolian restaurant nearby. But there was no obviously “Australian” restaurant. The same is true of Australian culture in general. It’s there but it’s hidden away. Boyd called Australian culture a veneer on international western culture. That’s one way to think about it. Another is that it is hiding beneath international western culture. Just like my colleague looking for “Australian” food, you have to ask for directions on how to find it.

What is partly at stake in these analytical issues is the age old question of free will versus moral determinism. The deterministic way to look at it is that, through the vicissitudes of fate, Australia accidentally ended up with no covid and then had to defend that position because, well, who wouldn’t? According to this way of thinking, even the US would have done the same if they had managed to close the borders in time. I doubt that’s true but it’s something that is not really testable anyway. Within the Jungian paradigm I have been using in recent posts, the question is somewhat moot. When the archetypes take over, free will as determined by the ego (the conscious mind) disappears because the ego itself has been overwhelmed. Looked at this way, the difference between Australia and the US is simply that we have been overwhelmed by the archetype far more. That raises all kinds of questions as to why. I don’t intend to try and answer those here. What I will do, is sketch out why I think the archetypal analysis helps to explain Australia’s extreme overreaction, an overreaction that has even recently caught the attention of mainstream analysts in the US who look on in horror at what is happening here and wonder whether their politicians have something similar in mind. They are sort of right. There is an element in the US who would love to copy Australia. But I think that what has happened in Australia could never happen in America. Corona has laid bare the real cultural differences that exist between the two countries. Within the archetypal analysis, Australia is The Orphan and the US empire is The Devouring Mother with the big pharma interests representing the Munchausen by Proxy side of that archetype. That works as a political explanation, but it also works culturally. Australian culture and history is very Orphan-like and US history is not. We used to refer to Britain as “the mother country”, for example. It wasn’t until the 1970s that we threw off the “cultural cringe” according to which we were necessarily inferior to the grand cultures of Europe. Australia was originally set up as a penal colony. We were abandoned by our “mother”. Disowned. Orphaned. But also utilised. Australia was initially a naval outpost of the British empire and is now a naval outpost of the US empire. Politically and culturally, we have never been fully independent and autonomous. We imitated first the British and then the Americans. That’s true in politics and culture. When given the chance to take autonomy at a referendum on becoming a republic in 1999, the country firmly voted No. We were still not ready to take our future in hand; still not sure enough in ourselves to transcend the institutions of democracy that we had inherited from our mother. By contrast, the US went to war with its mother and well and truly asserted its independence. Donald Horne said that Australia never “deserved” those institutions. They were part of our luck. We had inherited them but never earned them the hard way like America earned its independence. When given the chance to come up with a new institution of our own, we were unable to do so.  

Australian culture shares a number of traits with The Orphan archetype. On the positive side, we like to get along with people. We are pragmatic and unpretentious to a fault. We are realist and conservative in our realism. Australians err on the side of caution in stark contrast to the US which errs on the side of big, idealist dreams. The shadow traits of The Orphan are also present here. Cynicism, complaining, victimisation of others, powerlessness and worrying. Australians tend to be cynical especially towards politicians. But this is merely an affectation. When the chips are down, as we have seen during corona, we turn to politicians to save us. The Nanny State has been dominant here for a long time. The victimisation of others can be seen in what is known as Tall Poppy Syndrome where people who set out to achieve something out of the ordinary are cut down to size. Our anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism are other examples. Again, this is in stark contrast to the US where the achiever, the entrepreneur and the iconoclast are celebrated. Powerlessness and worrying have been at the core of our corona response. A common response to anybody who questions our response to corona is “what would you do?” or “there’s no other option”. We have been unable to raise a single dissenting voice because no sooner does somebody speak up than they are cut down to size. Having silenced those who would speak out, we say there is no alternative except what the government tells us. This pattern was already evident in Australian history. We used to accuse people of being “Un-Australian” if ever they said something critical of the country. If you spoke up, you were invited to “leave if you didn’t like it”. In light of our new border policy, I suppose this quip now needs to be updated “ask the government for permission to leave if you don’t like it.” Earlier in our history, this led to a stifling atmosphere of conformism which many of our most talented artists and thinkers escaped by going – guess where? – back to the mother country in Britain. We thought we had thrown off that conformism, docility and servility in the 1970s but clearly we have not. There are alternatives to lockdowns such as shown by Sweden and Florida (and now Alberta) but we have convinced ourselves that the path we are on is the only one even though it’s increasingly becoming clear that the path we are on is a road to nowhere. I mentioned above that Australian culture “hides away”. This is much like The Orphan. We just want to fit in. We prefer to be liked than respected. We don’t want to stick out. And ultimately, as corona has shown, we just want to be “safe”.

The notion of protection and safety has been at the centre of Australian political and cultural debate for almost the entirety of the nation’s short history. It is captured nowhere better than in the “White Australia Policy” which, in some form of another, was in place all the way into the 1970s and was still being actively defended by politicians as late as the 1960s. That policy is summed up very nicely in its own language – “This country shall remain forever the home of the descendants of those people who came here in peace in order to establish in the South Seas an outpost of the British race.” An outpost of the British race? This is a reminder that the language and beliefs around “race” were not limited to the Germans in the pre-WW2 period. It also makes explicit how the Australians of that time saw themselves: just a part of the British empire. To be fair, there were genuine issues of security at play. The population of Australia was so small relative to the land mass as to be a weakness militarily. There were also real economic issues. Much like immigration in the modern US is favoured by agricultural business interests, it was those interests which sought cheap labour primarily from the pacific islander nations (it’s noteworthy that right in the middle of corona Australia made special exemption for islanders to enter the country as they still form the backbone of the fruit and vegetable workers in this country). It was partly to protect local workers from such a reduction in wages that The White Australia policy was implemented and supported by the average worker. Against this backdrop, it is at first glance surprising that Australia should have transformed so quickly into one of the more successful multi-cultural nations in the world but that is what has happened in the last several decades. Interestingly, The Orphan archetype predicts this. Orphans get along with people. They are unpretentious and pragmatic. These are useful traits supporting a policy of multi-culturalism. Within this broad historical arc, one can see why Australian culture would be so hard to find. We went from the cultural cringe of subservience to the British to the multi-culturalism and globalism of the American empire very quickly. We have faithfully served the interests of both empires and have been among the most enthusiastic proponents of the neoliberal agenda in recent decades. Robin Boyd already noted in the 1960s that this tendency to imitate first the British and then the American trends implied a culture that was not certain in itself. For Boyd, whose preoccupation was architecture, this amounted to an unwillingness to deal with the problem of “place”. The Australian veneer was a mask that hid a deeper uncertainty. In the words of one of our great poets, A D Hope, Australians were second-hand Europeans who clung timidly to the edge of alien shores. In archetypal terms, we still do not feel at home even in our own country and in our own skin. This is uncertainty of The Orphan who has not established its place in the world.

Australian culture is talked about so seldom that it’s hard to get a grasp on what foreigners think of us. Americans in particular think of Australians via the stereotypes of the movies and television. We are Crocodile Dundee and Steve Irwin wrestling crocodiles and drinking beer in the sun. When George W Bush visited Australia during his presidency he said Australians were like Texans. That’s not true at all. Australians are far more like Californians. No surprise that the closest exponent of our corona response in the US has been California. We are one of the most urbanised countries in the world and our big cities are really big, even by US standards. Unlike the US, we lack the large number of small inland cities and our rural population is so sparse that it is politically almost irrelevant. To a large extent, modern Australia is the big, international city where you can eat food from all corners of the world and see people from all nations. It is the cosmopolitanism of Los Angeles or San Francisco but without the squalor and homelessness.

It was in a conversation with three foreigners who were living here that I got one of the more surprising bits of feedback on Australian culture that I have heard. In the group was an Indian, a Malaysian and a Singaporean. All three were professionals who had moved to Melbourne for work. The subject of Australian workplace culture came up and one of the three, who had clearly been mulling over the subject for some time, said “Australians are two faced”. This got me intrigued. I had never heard that said about Australians before. In fact, I had barely heard anything negative said about Australians before. I asked her for clarification. The root of the problem was a part of Australian culture that I was very familiar with – our extreme aversion to conflict of any kind. Australians will do anything to avoid an argument. In this we show our British roots, only Australians tend to copy the American style of forced positivity as a cover for our insecurity. This is the flip side of The Orphan’s inter-dependency strength. Orphans are good at getting along with others. But that strength can become an imperative for consensus and an unwillingness to hear dissenting opinions. Everybody must get along, or else. We have seen that in stark terms during corona with an almost complete inability to raise a dissenting voice. In the workplace, this manifests as an unwillingness to talk frankly with colleagues. It was this which had annoyed the Malaysian woman I was talking to. According to her, in Singapore and Malaysia it was normal to be told to your face by a colleague or superior if they thought you were doing something wrong. It was considered the right thing to do. In Australia, nobody does that. Rather, people will complain (another trait of The Orphan) to a superior and then it’s the superior’s job to handle it. That’s what this woman meant when she said Australians were two-faced. They say one thing to your face and another thing behind your back.

About a year after that conversation I experienced the practical nature of this problem at work. I was in a meeting with a client. A representative of the client asked for something that made no sense. As this was related to my area of work, I had to deal with the problem. Rather than openly disagree which, not being a very good Australian I would have preferred to do, I did the next best thing which was to ask a few questions to have them explain why they wanted it. The reason they gave was self-evidently invalid and didn’t make sense. I had hoped the act of saying it out loud would make them realise the problem, but no luck. What I then wanted to say was – “we’re not going to give you that as it’s private information internal to the company.” That was the truth. But the truth would be disagreeing and we don’t do that in Australian workplace culture, especially with a third party client in a meeting. So, I said I would take an action on it and later raised it with my manager. She was also a foreigner – an Indian – who had recently arrived in Australia for work. As we had a very open and honest dialogue going, I apologised for having to make work for her and wished I could have handled the matter myself. I mentioned how this was good example of conflict avoidance in the Australian workplace. She agreed and said this was something that was annoying her too. She had spent the last several years working in the US and said that in the US there was a willingness to disagree openly. It wasn’t considered offensive to disagree and, in fact, to not disagree would make you seem a pushover. This seemingly banal occurrence reveals something about Australian culture. In its more extreme form, it is actually a form of predatory behaviour cloaked in niceness. That’s where the two-faced part comes in. It’s also there in the tall poppy syndrome; the tearing down of the person who dares break ranks and stick their head up even in the trivial matter of disagreeing about something that is obviously invalid. If you can’t even speak truth at that kind of basic everyday level, how are you going to speak truth when something important comes along? As one last bit of evidence on this, I was once in a workplace seminar on the subject of giving “negative feedback”. The strategy recommended was the “shit sandwich”. What you do is you start by telling the person something that you like about their work. Then you slip in the negative feedback that’s the thing that you really want to say and you finish with something positive. All that work and energy just to try and avoid speaking a basic truth that in other cultures would be taken care of with a normal conversation. Conflict avoidance creates work. Eventually the truth must come out but you do everything to avoid it; just like Australia is willfully avoiding the truth right now.

The Prime Minister of Australia decided to change the wording of the national anthem right in the middle of corona. He changed the line “we are young and free” to “we are one and free”. It’s hard to conceive a less opportune time to have made that change. We have been neither one nor free over the last year and a half. At time of writing, I am not free to cross the state borders of the country and countless people have been denied that ability in order to visit sick relatives or attend funerals. We are, however, still a young country. We changed the wording in deference to the aboriginals of this land who, having been here for fourty thousand years, can certainly not be said to have been young in cultural terms. I have been fortunate to spend some time in a modern aboriginal community and I can tell you that they have no problem with conflict avoidance or beating around the bush. They get straight to the point. In fact, I would argue that the direct speaking and larrikin spirit which used to be, and still is in places, part of the Australian culture comes from the original inhabitants. But the mainstream Australian culture is still European or, in Boyd’s phrase, international western culture. Being “young” and only recently semi-separated from the “mother country”, Australian culture is the culture of the child in archetypal terms. The requirement for safety is not, of itself, a bad thing. It is obviously a basic necessity. Where it turns negative is when it is clearly doing harm. This harm is at the core of The Devouring Mother – Child relationship and the harm being done is the stunted development of the child. To address this requires strength of character and the ability to speak truth. The absence of these is obliviousness and denial; the refusal to face hard truths. That is precisely where Australia finds itself now; endless cycles of lockdown and the escalation of failed policies.

Of course, this was all precipitated by our Devouring Mother: the US empire. Although the US empire runs mostly on “soft power”, every now and then things get real. Thus, Australia had to follow the US into the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars and now we have followed the US into the corona quagmire. The freedoms we thought we had were the freedoms that American citizens have and that are transmitted to us through US culture. But, as Robin Boyd noted, we have done nothing to earn them. And maybe we don’t really believe in them. What we believe in is “safety” at all costs. We continue on a cycle of doubling down on error all while there is zero public discussion about any alternative. This is all while it’s becoming as plain as day that the vaccines will not save us either in literal or political terms. How are our politicians going to get out of this when it becomes clear the vaccines don’t really work? Having spent so long terrifying the population into submission about the virus, how are they going to allow borders to re-open and “cases” to rise? Having shown zero leadership so far and apparently zero ability to predict what is coming, do they have a Plan B to fall back on? If not, it may very well be that Australia simply continues on the current path and keep the borders closed for many years. A lot will depend on what happens in the upcoming northern winter.

History has a sense of irony. The country has returned to our roots. The isolationism, conformism and parochialism are back. Maybe in some sense they never really went away. They were just hidden beneath the veneer of neoliberal globalism. It may very well be that Australians have grasped this fact at some level. We were one of the most enthusiastic supporters of that doctrine. Our behaviour is perhaps partly driven by the genuine uncertainty of what lies ahead. We watched on as Brexit and Trump happened and shook our heads. But these were harbingers of what we now see. We’ve all heard about the border wall between the US and Mexico. But border walls are going up in Europe now too. Neoliberal globalism seems to be evaporating right before our very eyes. Where does that leave Australia? I’m not sure we know and certainly nobody is talking about it. Dissenting voices are not allowed at the best of times in Australia and with corona they have been completely smothered. For that reason, I expect Australia will have to wait for other countries to show us the way forward. Just as we have had to wait for other countries to deliver us the magical vaccine which is the non-solution to our situation. And, finally, we will have to wait, probably decades or more, before Australian culture in whatever form it eventually takes can break free of the dependency we have on “international western culture”. Only once the US empire, our Devouring Mother, has retreated and we stand exposed to the world on equal terms will such a culture have a chance to develop. I used to think that time was far off in the future but it may be much closer that we think.

All posts in this series:-

The Coronapocalypse Part 0: Why you shouldn’t listen to a word I say (maybe)

The Coronapocalypse Part 1: The Madness of Crowds in the Age of the Internet

The Coronapocalypse Part 2: An Epidemic of Testing

The Coronapocalypse Part 3: The Panic Principle

The Coronapocalypse Part 4: The Denial of Death

The Coronapocalypse Part 5: Cargo Cult Science

The Coronapocalypse Part 6: The Economics of Pandemic

The Coronapocalypse Part 7: There’s Nothing Novel under the Sun

The Coronapocalypse Part 8: Germ Theory and Its Discontents

The Coronapocalypse Part 9: Heroism in the Time of Corona

The Coronapocalypse Part 10: The Story of Pandemic

The Coronapocalypse Part 11: Beyond Heroic Materialism

The Coronapocalypse Part 12: The End of the Story (or is it?)

The Coronapocalypse Part 13: The Book

The Coronapocalypse Part 14: Automation Ideology

The Coronapocalypse Part 15: The True Believers

The Coronapocalypse Part 16: Dude, where’s my economy?

The Coronapocalypse Part 17: Dropping the c-word (conspiracy)

The Coronapocalypse Part 18: Effects and Side Effects

The Coronapocalypse Part 19: Government and Mass Hysteria

The Coronapocalypse Part 20: The Neverending Story

The Coronapocalypse Part 21: Kafkaesque Much?

The Coronapocalypse Part 22: The Trauma of Bullshit Jobs

The Coronapocalypse Part 23: Acts of Nature

The Coronapocalypse Part 24: The Dangers of Prediction

The Coronapocalypse Part 25: It’s just semantics, mate

The Coronapocalypse Part 26: The Devouring Mother

The Coronapocalypse Part 27: Munchausen by Proxy

The Coronapocalypse Part 28: The Archetypal Mask

The Coronapocalypse Part 29: A Philosophical Interlude

The Coronapocalypse Part 30: The Rebellious Children

The Coronapocalypse Part 31: How Dare You!

The Coronapocalypse Part 32: Book Announcement

The Coronapocalypse Part 33: Everything free except freedom

The Coronapocalypse Part 34: Into the Twilight Zone

The Coronapocalypse Part 35: The Land of the Unfree and the Home of the Safe

The Coronapocalypse Part 36: The Devouring Mother Book Now Available

The Coronapocalypse Part 37: Finale